The city of Tuzla was built over the ancient Pannonian Sea, which was mined for its rock salt over several centuries. By the year of 2000, it was causing entire sections of the city center to sink. The city was also facing other, mainly economic problems, since the mining industry on which the city relied in the past was now dilapidated.

Jasmin Imamovic, the Mayor of Tuzla, decided to turn Tuzla’s biggest problem into its biggest asset. He employed a team of experts to create a fake lake, by siphoning saltwater to the surface and keeping it at a stable level. The result was the Pannonian Lake, completed in 2003.

Panonika 2

A second lake and artificial waterfalls were opened in 2008, incorporating an archaeological park and replica Neolithic lake dwellings, and a third one was opened in 2012. Now the area, previously a fetid marshland, has been transformed, with children playing in the turquoise water, couples sunbathing on the gravel beach and families strolling to the old town for burek, a Bosnian meat pastry.

Last summer it attracted up to 13,000 people a day, many drawn by the supposedly medicinal properties of Europe’s only salt lake. Tuzla’s economy has also changed massively. The tourism and service industries are now its biggest sectors - a sharp change of direction for a city previously known for its coal plants and smoke-filled skies.